Open Space Advocates Join Former Mayor In Fight For Open Space and Land

Open Space Advocates Join Former Mayor In Fight For Open Space and Land

Open Space Advocates Join Former Mayor In Fight For Open Space and Land

New state law makes Park Hill Golf Course land off-limits to commercial, residential development

By Luciana

     In 1997, Denver taxpayers paid $2 million to the owners of the Park Hill Golf Course land to purchase the Conservation Easement that prevents development on the land and preserves the land’s open space and recreational use. Westside Investment Partners, the real estate developer that purchased the Park Hill Golf Course land this July, hopes to cut a deal with the City to convert the open space into commercial and residential development.
     “When I signed the conservation easement into law, the intent was to ensure that this parcel of land would continue as a golf course or was used for recreational purposes. I believed then as I believe now, it is critical for the health and welfare of our community that our children, families and seniors have access to open space. We made a commitment to be good stewards of our land and to ensure we are leaving our children and our children’s children a city that values green space,” said former Mayor of Denver the Honorable Wellington E. Webb. “Today, we see that state law agrees with us and that Park Hill Golf Course land is off limits to commercial and residential development,” said the parks and open land advocate at a recent press conference held on the north side of the golf course land.
     The Colorado law known as HB 19-1264, passed and signed by Governor Polis this year, makes it virtually impossible for  the City and the land-owner real estate developer to terminate the Conservation Easement that covers the Park Hill Golf Course land.
     “Keep It Colorado stands behind perpetual conservation easements – a tool intentionally used to protect land forever, put in place for a purpose and with an expectation from the public that it will be honored in perpetuity. We believe the law is clear on upholding perpetual easements and that terminating an easement requires a judicial process and proof that it is impossible to uphold the conservation values of the easement,” says Keep It Colorado Executive Director Melissa Daruna.
     Westside Investment Partners intends to build a commercial and residential development project on the Park Hill Golf Course land but will need both City Council approval and a court order determining that conditions have changed on, or surrounding the land, making it impossible to fulfill the open space and recreation conservation purposes of the Conservation Easement.
     “The goal has always been, as good stewards of the land, was to hold this land in perpetuity for parks and open space. Historically, it is one of the first golf courses that allowed African Americans to play on this golf course, so it has history,” says Webb who suggested to those in attendance to take a ride and look at other developments taking place and the rising cost of living space. “I believe what has made Colorado special and made Denver unique is our ability to protect our open space and our land development within Denver itself. This is a 155 acre of open space land. If someone on wants to develop, there is an industrial area further to the east and where there is plenty of development that can take place. The issue is this land needs to be protected. We need to draw a line in the sand now.  What kind of Denver do you want?” he asked describing the proposed image of the park with commercial development blocking the mountains in addition to concerns of climate change. “Some people are suggesting that what we do now is take this particular 155 acres and turn it into New Jack City without Wesly Snipes.”
     Webb acknowledged the many SOS member, Black clergy, school community members, and individuals in attendance who also wants to see open space and parks, including former Governor Dick and First Lady Dottie Lamm.
     “If a concrete residential commercial development was put here, you can never reclaim this space – it’s gone. Think of New York City...can you imagine New York City without Central Park? Well they say, high rises are the deal of the day. Well it doesn’t work that well in Paris. I don’t see people not going to Paris because they don’t have a skyscraper. I think we have to take these things and peel them back and the bottom line is open space land has  to be maintained and we need to fight to make sure this does not turn into a commercial mixed used development. Do we need housing? Absolutely yes…but why take the 155 acres for housing. There are housing sites all over Denver, so, let’s fight for the land,” said Webb.
     City Council members are asking the Denver City Attorney to clarify the City’s position regarding the impact of HB 19-1264 on the ability of the City and the real estate developer to terminate the Conservation Easement and permit residential and commercial development on the land..

Park Hill Golf Course Timeline Summary

1931- Park Hill Golf Course opens

1997 - City of Denver uses $2 million in taxpayer funds to purchase Conservation Easement from the owner of the Park Hill Golf Course land, The George W. Clayton Trust (Clayton). City now controls future land development and Conservation Easement perpetually preserves open space and recreational land uses.

2000 - City and Clayton enter into Agency Agreement to save Clayton from indirectly paying property taxes related to the Park Hill Golf Course land. Conservation Easement is released but Clayton is required to grant new Conservation Easement if Clayton sells land

2019 - June 30. New Colorado law takes effect governing Conservation Easements. Termination of conservation easements requires a court order determining that conditions have changed on or surrounding the land making it impossible to fulfill easement conservation purposes.

July 11. Clayton sells Park Hill Golf Course land to real estate developer Westside Investment Partners. Sale immediately triggers Clayton's obligation to grant new Conservation Easement similar to 1997 Conservation Easement prohibiting Westside from developing the land.